Ozy’s CEO said the company isn’t dead yet after its board of directors voted to shutter the scandal-ridden media startup

Ozy Media cofounder Carlos Watson
Ozy Media co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson

  • Ozy Media CEO Carlos Watson said the company would stay operating despite a string of scandals.
  • Ozy’s board said on Friday the startup would close after cofounder Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive during a fundraising call.
  • Watson called the board’s decision “premature,” and said the company would improve.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ozy Media, a media startup rife with scandals during the last two weeks, will not shut down after all, according to CEO Carlos Watson.

Ozy Media’s board announced on Friday that the company would close its doors after a New York Times report detailing a poor management and a string of scandals at the company, including Chief Operating Officer and cofounder Samir Rao impersonating a YouTube executive during a fundraising call.

Watson said the company’s board of directors decision to shutter the company was “premature” during a Monday interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We have lots of things we have to do to improve, but I very genuinely feel like we have a meaningful, transformational voice,” Watson told CNBC. “At our best, this will be our Lazarus moment.”

The report of Rao’s impersonation, which took place during a call with Goldman Sachs to secure a $40 million investment, led to an FBI probe over the incident, demands from investors and advertisers for answers, and board chair Marc Lasry’s resignation.

The YouTube executive impersonation was not the company’s only problem. Former employees told Insider Ozy’s top brass demanded staff to work 80-hour weeks to churn out content, leading to most employees quitting after just a year.

“It’s the worst place I ever worked,” one former employee told Insider. “My mental health was never as bad as when I worked at Ozy.”

Ozy Media was not immediately available for additional comment.

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Ozy insiders describe burnout and doubts about metrics at the scandal-ridden media company

Carlos Watson speaks onstage during OZY FEST 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City.

Ozy Media announced it’s shutting down after a New York Times report shed light on its business practices.

Founded in 2013, Ozy had raised $83 million as of 2020 from well-known names like Marc Lasry, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Ron Conway. Insider owner Axel Springer is also a backer.

Its rapid unraveling wasn’t a surprise to current and former employees, who expressed doubts about the company and described a breakneck workplace culture.

For years, Ozy alumni told Insider, Chief Executive Officer Carlos Watson and fellow cofounder Samir Rao cultivated an aggressive focus on winning and a culture built upon a Silicon Valley start-up ethos rather than a journalistic one.

Employees were expected to be at their desks and available around the clock after hours, churn out content, and work 80-hour weeks.

While Ozy publicly touted impressive viewership numbers, staffers inside the company expressed skepticism the true size of their audience.

Subscribe to read the full story: 18 current and former Ozy employees say there’ve been widespread internal doubts about the company’s stated audience, 80-hour work weeks, and a ‘cult of Carlos’

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Ozy announces it is shutting down, following bombshell New York Times report

Ozy Media cofounder Carlos Watson
Ozy Media cofounder Carlos Watson

Ozy Media, the digital media company under fire after a bombshell New York Times report about its workplace culture and business practices, announced it was shutting down on Friday.

“At Ozy, we have been blessed with a remarkable team of dedicated staff,” Ozy’s board of directors wrote in a statement. “Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude and who are wonderful colleagues. It is therefore with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors.”

Carlos Watson and Samir Rao founded Ozy in 2013 on the promise of building a new kind of media company aimed at millennials, and garnered $83 million in funding and backing from many high-profile investors and celebrities.

The unraveling started when the Times reported that Rao, Ozy’s chief operating officer, was caught impersonating a YouTube executive during a fundraising call, along with raising questions about Ozy’s audience metrics.

Meanwhile, Ozy alumni told Insider about the company’s grueling work practices and raised doubts about the company’s audience claims.

The fallout from the Times story came fast. The company was facing an FBI probe over the phone call incident. Advertisers and investors started demanding answers. Board chair and hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry stepped down from the board.

And the world’s biggest advertising company WPP just advised all its clients, which include Ford, Google, Facebook, IBM, Unilever, and Mondelez, to pause their ad buys on Ozy until further notice, said a person with direct knowledge.

The shutdown also leaves Ozy’s many investors holding the bag. Its backers have included Marc Lasry, Laurene Powell Jobs, Ron Conway, and LionTree. Axel Springer, parent of Insider, also invested.

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IAC in talks to acquire Meredith in $2.5 billion deal that would boost its holdings after Match Group spinoff

barry diller
IAC Chairman Barry Diller.

Digital media giant IAC is in advanced talks to acquire print publishing giant Meredith Corp. in a potential deal that could exceed $2.5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

IAC, chaired by Barry Diller, has pulled ahead of private equity firm The Najafi Companies and other potential buyers and could reach an agreement with Meredith in the next few days, according to The Journal.

IAC and Meredith did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

IAC, which owns brands including Investopedia and Brides, downsized its portfolio when it spun off Match Group, the parent company of Tinder, OkCupid, and a majority of the major US dating platforms.

Acquiring Meredith, which publishes dozens of magazines including People, Better Homes & Gardens, and InStyle, would significantly boost its holdings – and mark a major pivot for Meredith, which bought Time for $1.8 billion in 2018.

Meredith titles acquired via the deal would become part of IAC’s publishing division, Dotdash, according to The Journal.

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